CHINA, PAKISTAN, KOREA AND AUSTRALIA TOP POOLS AFTER ACTION-PACKED PRELIMS OF AVC CHALLENGE CUP

CHINA, PAKISTAN, KOREA AND AUSTRALIA TOP POOLS AFTER ACTION-PACKED PRELIMS OF AVC CHALLENGE CUP

China attack hosts Bahrain to decide Pool A winners on Tuesday

Isa Town, Bahrain, June 4, 2024 – On the day when Thailand’s title defence mission turned impossible, Asian powerhouses China, Pakistan, Korea and Australia topped their respective pools and made it to the highly-anticipated quarterfinals of the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup for Men at the Isa Town Sports City Hall C here.

 

On Tuesday, the last day of the pool round-robin preliminaries, Kazakhstan upset Thailand 3-2 (25-21, 22-25, 25-23, 19-25, 15-13) in Pool B, while Qatar demolished Indonesia 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-17) in Pool C, Vietnam overpowered Chinese Taipei 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-14) in Pool D and China outplayed hosts Bahrain 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-16) in Pool A.

Three unbeaten teams Pakistan, Korea and Australia topped Pools B, C and D respectively since completion of their pool play on Monday. Bahrain and China had already secured their quarterfinal berths following their convincing wins against the Philippines on the first two days, but battled it out on Tuesday to determine the Pool A winners and China emerged triumphant.

Also making the cut for the quarterfinals were teams finishing second in those four pools featuring hosts Bahrain (Pool A), Kazakhstan (Pool B), Qatar (Pool C) and Vietnam (Pool D).

At the same time, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Chinese Taipei lost two matches in a row to finish third places in Pool A, B, C and D respectively, resulting in their relegation to Classification Round for 9th-12 places.

 

Contesting Pool B, world No. 66 Thailand, reigning champions and 7th place at the 2023 FIVB Challenger Cup in Doha, Qatar, made a dismal start to their title defence campaign as they succumbed to straight-set loss to world No.49 Pakistan, which captured the CAVA Nations League to their name.

The Monday’s letdown gave Thailand a must-win situation in their second match against Kazakhstan, the team which had beaten them in straight sets at the rescheduled Hangzhou Asian Games in China last year. Still, Thailand suffered another setback on Tuesday when they went down to the tall and towering Kazakhs in epic tie-breaker.

Thailand fielded the same lineup which lost in straight sets to Pakistan consisting of Kissada Nilsawai, Amornthep Khonhan, Jakkrit Thanomnoi, Anuchit Pakdeekaew, Anurak Phanram, setter Boonyarit Wongtorn and libero Tanapat Charoensuk. Kazakhstan were also strong with the likes of highly-experienced Vitaliy Vorivodin, Aibat Netalin, Petr Churzin, Damir Akimov and Vladimir Prokofiev.

Thailand and Kazakhstan started strongly in similar standard, with the former utilizing powerful attacks from left-hander Amornthep and hard-hitting Jakkrit to take an initial 13-9 lead. Kazakhstan clawed their way back, with Churzin and Vorivodin overcoming the Thai blockers with exceptional attacks to level it at 15-15, extend the lead to 22-20 before taking the see-saw set 25-21.

Conceding one set, Thailand regained their composure in the second set and bounced back to take the narrow lead with a two-point advantage at 15-13. They widened it to 23-21, courtesy of Supakorn Jenthaisong’s deadly cross-court spikes, and went on their good show to win the thrilling set 25-22.

The competition intensified in the next two sets, with both sides riding the momentum and the inspiration coming from their supporters at the grandstands and teammates yelling from their substitute bench to trade attacks and blocks. Kazakhstan clinched the hard-fought third set 25-23 and Thailand made amends to grab the fourth set 25-19, forcing the tie-breaker to decide the eventual winners.

The rhythm was with Kazakhstan in the decider as they brewed a solid blend of offense orchestrated by Netalin, Churzin and Vorivodin and good defence to stay in front with a four-point clear at 10-6. Thailand gradually pulled their game together, with Jakkrit attacking devastatingly in an effort of snatching the momentum from the Kazakhs. However, the Kazakhs used their height advantage to block effectively at the net. After taking a narrow 14-12 lead, Kazakhstan allowed Thailand only one more point before Churzin fired a powerful spike to completely end the Thai challenge. Kazakhstan took the epic tie-breaker 15-13 and match.

Opposite Petr Churzin delivered 21 points from 16 kills, 3 blocks and two aces for Kazakhstan, while Aibat Netalin and Vitaliy Vorivodin kept good company to contribute 17 and 16 points respectively. Amornthep Khonhan was the most productive player for Thailand to score 21 points from 19 kills and two aces on the team’s loss.

Kazakhstan dominated the blocking game, getting 19 stuffs to Thailand’s 9, aside from taking more aces (6 to 4). Thailand did a very good job of leading their opponents in kills (60 to 55), also benefiting from more opponent errors (34 to 26).

Following the hard-fought win, Kazakhstan, as the second-placed team from Pool B, joined Pakistan in the quarterfinals, while Thailand were relegated to Classification Round for 9th-12th places.

In Pool C, world No.22 Qatar, which picked up silver medal at the 2023 FIVB Challenger Cup on home soil in Doha and bronze at the Asian Senior Men’s Championship in Iran on the same year, proved too strong for Indonesia to overwhelm the young rivals with their greater experience and form.

With main attacker Ibrahim Ibrahim Mohamed, who scored a match-high 22 points in their previous match against the well-organized Korea, on the sidelines, Qatar remained strong offensively with the likes of veteran Youssef Oughlaf and hard-attacking Papemaguette Diagne.

Despite putting up a brave fight, Indonesia found the much-stronger Qataris unstoppable to go down in comfortable straight sets 17-25, 15-25, 17-25 to join Pool C winners Korea in the quarterfinals, relegating the Indonesians to the Classification Round for 9th-12th places.

Outside hitter Youssef Oughlaf chipped in with 14 points for Qatar including 12 kills from 23 attempts, while Papemaguette Diagne added another 12 points. 

Qatar limited the rivals’ offense to the point that no rivals’ player got to reach double digits in scoring against them. Prasasti Yohanes Dedi scored 9 points on the Indonesia’s straight-set loss.

In Pool D, Vietnam, which suffered their first loss at the hands of Australia in their campaign opener, advanced to the quarterfinals after managing a 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-14) shutout of Chinese Taipei, sixth place at the last year’s Asian Senior Men’s Championship.

Learning that Vietnam must win this match to book their quarterfinal berth, Coach Tran Dinh Tien assembled the best players to ensure a strong defense and effective attacks in this would-be tough match against Chinese Taipei.

During the match, setter Dinh Van Duy made a notable contribution by skillfully coordinating quick and precise ball distribution, enabling the Vietnamese hitters to play with great enthusiasm and form.

With Nguyen Ngoc Thuan on fire, Vietnam took the first set with ease 25-15. The young team from Chinese Taipei recovered in the second set as outside hitter Pan Yi-Jung and opposite Lo Wen-Feng combined well in the offensive system to level it at 21-21, but the Vietnamese side, which finished fourth at the previous edition, still had enough to hold them off and won the closely-contested set 25-22.

The third set turned out to be one-way traffic as Vietnam led from start to finish. As the Vietnamese were taking a commanding 24-14 lead, Nguyen Ngoc Thuan came from behind to hammer a thunder spike for the set win 25-14, match and a slot in the quarterfinals.

The 25-year-old outside hitter played a big part of the Vietnam’s victory to become the match’s top scorer with 23 points from 18 kills, two blocks and three aces, while Pan Yi-Jung led Chinese Taipei with 14 points.

In the last match of the day before a large number of home audiences at the venue, world No.37 China, silver medallists at the Hangzhou Asian Games and fourth place in the Asian Senior Men’s Championship last year, handed hosts Bahrain the first defeat.

Playing without their skipper Jiang Chuan, China still started the first set better with star spiker Zhang Jingyin, 207cm, and Zhai Dejun penetrating the Bahraini defence with their powerful attacks to race to 24-19 lead. Bahrain fought back hard for a comeback, but their determined efforts were denied as Zhang produced a thundering midcourt attack for the China’s confident 25-20 win.

The second set was more competitive. China gained the upper hand to lead 15-11 and widened the gap to 20-16. Bahrain, strengthened by outside hitters Ali Sayed Hashem and Abdulla Mohamed Yaqoob, turned things around and mightily counter-attacked to win four points in succession to level it at 20-20. 

However, Bahrain became more prone with unforced errors, leaving China to play cool under pressure. Another mistake by Bahrain cost them dear as the Chinese reached the set point at 24-21. A fast spike from Abdulla Mohamed earned Bahrain another life, but their delight was short-lived. An erratic serve by Anan Naser gave China the eventual 25-22 win in this thrilling set.

China still played much better in the third set to lead 21-15 and allowed the host side only one more point to wrap up the set 25-16, with left-hander Wang Jingyi hitting a cross-court winner.

Zhai Dejun registered 13 points from 9 kills and team-leading 4 blocks for China, with Wang Jingyi and Zhang Jingyin contributing 11 and 9 points respectively. Middle blocker Abdulla Mohamed scored 8 points on hosts Bahrain’s loss.

Only two matches will be contested on Wednesday. Philippines will take on Indonesia in Classification Round for 9th-12th places, with Chinese Taipei challenging Thailand.

The electrifying quarterfinal matchups will take place on Thursday, with China taking on Qatar, Kazakhstan facing off against Australia, Pakistan playing Vietnam and Bahrain going up against Korea. 

RESULTS AND POOL RANKINGS

MATCH SCHEDULE

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